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Hildreth by Night

23 October 2002

By: Dave Comerzan

Hey guys let's go hike Hildreth. Hildreth! Oh no. A long, boring hike, up and down a dirt road, definitely not a summer hike. One of those peaks that have to be done if you're trying to finish the List. Let's just get it out of the way. But wait. Why not try a different way. Why not hike it at night, under a full moon? Now, many of us have ended a hike by walking out at night (either by plan or unplanned), but to start a hike at night? Well, that is what nine of us night owls set out to do on the night of October 23, 2002. Besides the leaders, Brian "Wolf" Leverich and myself, there was Craig and Charla Coupland, Brent Crookham, Dorothy Danziger, Ingeborg Prochazka and David Rosenberg.

The first step was to determine a date for a full moon. By consulting the appropriate tables, it was determined we would have nearly a full moon in that area on 10/23/02 and it would rise about 8:00 pm. Now, if only the weather will cooperate and no clouds will obscure the moon. Like our day hikes, this would be at the mercy of the weather gods. Appropriate offerings were made. The meeting place was the locked gate at Potrero Seco Road at 5:00 pm.

The first challenge was in Ojai -- getting the right combination to the locked gate from the Ranger Station. That done, several of us decided to have a meal in Ojai before the start of the hike. This was another challenge. How does one eat before a night hike? Eggs and bacon? Meat and potatoes? All sorts of new challenges. Miracles never cease, the gate opened on the first try. Carpooling in, we arrived at the trailhead (Three Sisters) at 5:30 pm. Lights checked (a definite need on this hike), warm clothing available, we departed at 5:45 pm. Initially, lights were not needed, but by 7:30 pm, most people had their lights turned on. As we anxiously looked for yellow eyes staring back at us (most animals are nocturnal), we headed for the peak. One thing that does not change with a night hike, it is still up and down the road. 2500 feet going, 2500 feet coming back. One concern was, would we spot the turn off for the use trail portion at night? Fortunately, the moon and its light were making its presence and the turnoff was spotted and the trail followed to the top. We arrived to a cold and windy peak at 9:30 pm. Back to the road, a nutritional break, and on to the cars.

On the way back, the clouds had dispersed and no lights were needed as we hiked along the road, bathed in beautiful moonlight. The black outline of peaks could be seen in the distance, the wind died down, and it was a comfortable hike. Comments such as beautiful, awesome, spectacular, and are we nuts?, were heard. We arrived at the cars at 1:30 am and began the long ride home, arriving home at 2, 3, 4 and even 5:00 am, as our spouses were just getting up. They definitely thought we were nuts. Only Dorothy was the smart one. She spent the night at the campground and returned home at a more reasonable hour. Most of us were planning an easy day after, however, David Rosenberg was planning on going to work the next (or should I say the same) day. I wonder how much work he got done that day.

Would we do it again? Most agreed, definitely. It is a beautiful and surreal experience to walk along a trail or road with only moonlight to guide your way. One could easily think of other peaks that could be done this way. Who knows, maybe we will have an emblem for peaks hiked by moonlight.

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